Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

San Diego Museum Of Art Explores How Women During Wartime Influenced Industrialization

October 16, 2013 1:40 p.m.


Amy Galpin, Ph.D., Associate Currator of the Art of the Americas, at the San Diego Museum of Art

Related Story: San Diego Museum Of Art Explores How Women During Wartime Influenced Industrialization


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: We've all heard about rosy the riveter. And we've also heard about war and industrialization in general were major factors in getting women out of the house and into the workplace. Now those two influences are combined in the theme of a new exhibit at the San Diego museum of art, using posters, and artwork, many from the museum's permanent collection. The exhibit examines the subject of women, war, and industry. My guest, Amy Galpin is associate curator of the art of the Americas at the San Diego museum of art. And welcome to the show.

GALPIN: Thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: How did the idea for this exhibit come about?

GALPIN: The idea came through research of the permanent collection. I was originally looking at our photography collection, and saw works by Florence Kemmler, Margaret Bourke-White, and Esther Bubley. It was later on that the war posters also came into play. The war posters in our exhibition are from our permanent collection. And I was encouraged to keep exploring and expanding the show. And that's how I ended up adding about 23 contemporary works to the exhibition.

CAVANAUGH: Tell us about some of the ways women have been represented in relation to war and how this is reflected in the exhibition.

GALPIN: One of the ways in which women have been represented in relation to war are as these beautiful feminine subjects selling the war effort in World War I and World†War†II posters. I've also been represented as mothers. They also have been represented as strong, kind of powerful figures. For example there's a war poster in the exhibition that depicts a modern day woman as Joan of arc. And I know through the exhibition, we move through the World War I and World†War†II posters to the depictions of women as artists.

CAVANAUGH: There were also many artworks created by women. Tell us about those.

GALPIN: Nearly 70% of the works in the exhibition are by women artists. The national statistic is that 5-10% of the work on view at museums is by women. So this is a great effort on my part, I hope, and on the part of the museum to present great works by women artists. Several have local connections from the modern photographer Florence Kemmler who worked in San Diego in the early thirties.

CAVANAUGH: This exhibit also says something really positive about the San Diego museum of art's permanent collection.

GALPIN: Yes, another funny statistic is that most museums are only showing about 5% of their permanent collection at any given time. So like our colleagues across the nation, we have tremendous vaults and holdings, and we do our best to rotate and to share different works with our audiences. So a part of my job and looking into what is in the collection, literally going into the vault, pulling works out, and this to me, this exhibition is really inspired by the best type of territorial work, doing that investigative work and celebrating what is local.

CAVANAUGH: And seeing those themes and coming up with an idea of how all of this stuff that you have might be relate to each other and be exhibited.

GALPIN: Absolutely. For me, the best exhibitions come from the objects. The objects ultimately tell you the story of an exhibition, not a theoretical idea, not a poetic idea. You let the objects kind of come together, and then you see certain themes or ideas, or are then inspired to explore poetic or theoretical ideas as a result of the objects.

CAVANAUGH: Addition to the visual works that you have on display, the exhibition also features 12 oral histories, including stories from three local women. And we have an excerpt from one from daleana Johnson.

NEW SPEAKER: My experience in the military as a woman, it's been interesting. We're still in the minority, of course. And there's been lots of changes over the past few decades or what, but I do feel like we're really, really making a way toward having just that equal workforce where both men and women contribute equally to whatever we're trying to do in the military. So I think it's a good time to be a woman in the military. Of

CAVANAUGH: That's an excerpt from one of the oral histories included in the exhibition, women, war, and industry on display at the San Diego museum of art. Amy, why did you decide to incorporate this audio piece in your exhibition?

GALPIN: Well, this exhibition is very much about what's happening in our lives now. WERM continuing to be impacted by war and industry in major ways as it continues to shape their lives and their identities. We watch the nightly news, so we about 2013, the lifting of having women in combat, and lilly LED better. So I wanted contemporary voices in the exhibition as well. Daleana is a Navy reservist. And she served in the Navy for I believe eight years. We also have Gretel coVACH, a colleague from the Union Tribune, talking about her role as a war correspondent. And through the oral history, we're also trying to tease out the locals and really highlight some of the experiences of local women.

CAVANAUGH: One of the interesting things is that the San Diego museum of art has its own war stories. What happened on the museum's site during world TWAUR two?

GALPIN: BP very much was a part of the various World†War†II efforts experienced in San Diego. And our own museum, the building was used as a hospital. The permanent collection was moved offsite, and the museum itself became a functioning hospital. So in a way, this exhibition is very fitting that here in San Diego which has such an association with the military through its military community, and also through our building itself and its legacy.

CAVANAUGH: In hearing about this exhibition, it occurred to me that so much of the discussion and so much of the imagery surrounding war is about men, and of course of that's understandable. But doesn't it tend to disregard the immense changes that recent wars have brought into woman's lives?

GALPIN: Absolutely. I think that this exhibition is -- I was inspired to create this exhibition because I do think often we think of war through the lens of male experience. And I think that war from World War I and World†War†II which created tremendous changes in women's family roles and dress into contemporary times, in which there are more single moms and dads in the U.S. military currently, there are also the women who stay behind as men go off to fight in wars, there are the mothers at home and that has come to life in a blog in the exhibition called "they call me dependent, "in which a military wife shares her story. And I wanted in part to create this exhibition because sometimes museums can be Apolitical and not really reflect our social times. And I was walking to work every day thinking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I was really inspired to create something that's really reflecting our own societal times.

CAVANAUGH: And I'm thinking of the part that features footage of an abandoned military base in the Philippines. And you also have interferes there. And part of those affected were sex workers in the Philippines, and you also address that issue

GALPIN: Yes, absolutely. That is by an L.A.-based artist. She's really an important up and coming artist. She made this piece specifically for our exhibition. Her family is from the Philippines, her art is very much informed by the Philippines. It features photographs of the ruins of the Clarka and suBick U.S. military bases in the Philippines, over laid with images of the beautiful natural topography, and then layered with these interviews. And some of them are prostitutes who are solicited by the U.S. military when they occupied those bases. Some of the people interviewed are environmental activists. And I think again this show is about diverse voices, and many ways of looking at the issues of war and industry.

CAVANAUGH: The exhibit opens this Saturday at the San Diego museum of art, and it runs through February 18th. Thank you so much for coming in.

GALPIN: Thank you Maureen.